Sunday, December 24, 2000

Last-minute shoppers fill malls

Procrastination becomes tradition

By Lew Moores and Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On the last Saturday before the holiday, the face of Christmas was exhaustion.

        Doug Zecher, who lives in Liberty Township, sat off by himself in front of Dillard's at Tri-County Mall, his feet surrounded by packages. It was 12:30 p.m. He had been at the mall since 9:30 a.m. By his calculation, he would be there until 5 p.m.

[photo] On the busiest shopping day of the year, Tom Wagner of Liberty Township looks at jewelry Saturday with Rogers Jewelers' Kelly Davis at Tri-County Mall.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Shopping by himself, he fiddled with a cellular phone, in case he needed to be reached with news of his father-in-law, who recently had undergone surgery.

        “It's just tradition,” said Mr. Zecher. “I'm a last-min ute shopper. My wife starts right after Thanksgiving. I wait. I figure that's the price you pay for not wanting to deal with it all month long.”

        Saturday was the day the men came out to the shopping malls. Call it tradition, as Mr. Zecher does, or call it procrastination. But even those who spent the day shopping alone were joined by thousands of others. Whole families, women, teen-agers, small children pushed in strollers.

        The spirit of Christmas in suburban America is a crammed parking lot turned into a mosaic of colorful car tops.

        Today concludes the busiest two days of this holiday shopping season. Roughly 25 percent of all holiday spending is expected to occur Saturday and today, and thousands of shoppers rushed to area stores and retail centers in order to meet those projections.

        According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Saturday before Christmas has for five years been the biggest sales day of the season.

        Sales this weekend are expected to be high because people put shopping off to the last minute, and because stores are so promotional, some staying open late and/or cutting prices, said council spokesman Malachy Kavanagh.

        Mike Schooley, who lives in Hamilton, brought a friend along to help him carry packages as he wrapped up his shopping Saturday afternoon at Tri-County Mall.

        “I'm a last-minute shopper,” said Mr. Schooley, with neither sheepishness nor guilt.

        “When you wait like this, there's no decision-making involved. You gotta buy it and go. This is my day. This being the Saturday before, here I am. My wife gave me a list and all I can do is fulfill it. I'm done and I'm happy.”

        Gino Pangallo, who lives in Newport, took a break after about a half-hour of shopping at Florence Mall. His lady friend told him what she'd like for Christmas and he went in search of it.

        “I don't mean to wait this long, but I do,” said Mr. Pangallo. “But I'll wrap it up today even if it takes me to midnight to do it.”

        The food courts at both malls were packed, the restrooms had lines. Cellular phones riding either at the hips of shoppers or at their ears are a new addition to the holiday landscape.

        Bill Wachs, of Covington, had already completed some of his holiday shopping two weeks ago. Saturday, he did some shopping for his sister and her children.

        “I just wasn't in a big hurry,” said Mr. Wachs, a large shopping bag at his feet. “I don't get anything until I have to. I'm done.”

        Kurt Williams had brought his wife and three children shopping at Tri-County. His wife, Sharon, was off buying him something. A pair of shoes perhaps.

        “She said she'd never do this again,” said their daughter, Aubrey, 11.

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